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Lung Association Applauds New Department of Defense Policy Aimed at Reducing Tobacco Use in U.S. Military

(April 26, 2016) - WASHINGTON, D.C.

For more information please contact:

Allison MacMunn
[email protected]

As the human and financial burden caused by tobacco continues to increase for the Department of Defense (DOD), Secretary Ashton Carter issued a new DOD Tobacco Policy on April 8, 2016. The new policy includes guidelines that will improve the health, productivity and readiness of the military by identifying best practices for comprehensive tobacco control programs. The memo from Secretary Carter applies to all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Harold P. Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association, issued the following statement:

"Tobacco use is a persistent problem for our nation's military, and tragically more than one-third (38 percent) of tobacco users in the military start after they join. Tobacco use costs our military $1.6 billion annually in healthcare costs and lost productivity. The American Lung Association is very pleased that Secretary Carter has taken these important steps to reduce tobacco use within the Department of Defense. Reducing tobacco use will not only save lives, but also improve the health and readiness of our active-duty troops, and greatly reduce medical costs to the Veterans Administration.

"The items outlined in the policy, when enacted, will help remove powerful price discounts that encourage our military personal to use tobacco; enhance tobacco education and prevention programs; expand smokefree facilities and housing; and improve coverage for quit-tobacco programs and medication."

The proposed changes to the Department of Defense Tobacco Policy include:

•    Equalizing tobacco pricing on bases to match the local price of such products; prices should be equal to the price after all applicable taxes have been added, upon revision of a 2005 policy document "Armed Services Exchange Policy."
•    Reinforcing the commitment to smokefree air by only allowing tobacco use in discrete outdoor areas. Such designated areas must be at least 50 feet from building entrances. Any outdoor area that does not explicitly allow tobacco use is by default tobacco free.
•    Reviewing smokefree air policies to extend efforts for smokefree multi-unit housing. 
•    Creating a strategy for better tobacco prevention education and improving quit smoking programs.

In 2013, the Department of Defense's military health system, TRICARE, issued its comprehensive tobacco cessation benefit, which includes coverage of all seven Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medications and all three forms of counseling. TRICARE covers two quit attempts, consisting of 120 days, per year without prior authorization. TRICARE's comprehensive coverage of tobacco cessation treatments is recognized in the American Lung Association's annual "State of Tobacco Control" report as part of the Federal Access to Cessation Services grade.

"The steps outlined by Secretary Carter are an important step in the right direction. The American Lung Association urges the DOD to follow all of the steps outlined in the Institute of Medicine's Combatting Tobacco Use in Military and Veterans Populations to ultimately phase out tobacco use in the military, which will be a win-win for health and spending." 

For media interested in speaking with an expert about lung health, tobacco use and tobacco policies, contact the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 312-801-7628.

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